Shooting Magpies

  • 2005
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

A bleak chronicle of poverty, addiction and blighted lives unfolds against the backdrop of a depressed former coal-mining town in this shot-on-digital-video feature by the Amber Collective, a group of U.K. filmmakers who've been producing documentary-style fiction films about working-class communities since 1968. Developed in collaboration with residents...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A bleak chronicle of poverty, addiction and blighted lives unfolds against the backdrop of a depressed former coal-mining town in this shot-on-digital-video feature by the Amber Collective, a group of U.K. filmmakers who've been producing documentary-style fiction films about working-class communities since 1968. Developed in collaboration with residents of northern England's East Durham, a rugged seaside town where the last pit closed in 1992 and heroin rushed in to fill the economic and social void, it revolves around three intersecting lives. Tough and battered beyond her years, 25-year-old Emma (Emma Dowson, who participated 10 years earlier in an Amber project about teen mothers), was a mother at 15 and wants to give her young daughters (Jade Bell, Shannon Harker) better childhoods and more promising futures than hers. But she pins her hopes on helping her unemployed, heroin-addicted boyfriend, Darren (Darren Bell), get clean, even though he's repeatedly flunked out of rehab in the past. Her closest confidant is single father and one-time youth worker Barry (Barry Gough), whose steadying influence has earned him the confidence of many local teenagers, including sweet-natured junkie Deano (Sanchez Coulson). Deano's father, neighborhood hard case Ray (Brian Hogg), dominates the local harness-racing scene and deals in stolen jewelry. Ray is convinced that racing can keep his boy out of trouble, but Deano's addiction and the relentless pressure of his father's expectations drive him to suicide. Before killing himself, Deano steals a batch of hot goods from his father and gives it to Barry in a vague and ultimately tragic gesture of gratitude for past support. Barry in turn gives the jewelry to Emma, telling her to pawn it all somewhere far from East Durham and use the money for Darren's rehabilitation. But Ray's vicious quest to punish the dealers who sold his son drugs eventually ensnares them all. This is the final film in the Amber Collective's "coalfield trilogy," following The Scar (1997) and Like Father (2001), and the narrative threads it weaves together were teased out from real East Durham stories, refined and developed through improvisation. Some of the cast play variations on themselves, and the results are even more desolate than Ken Loach's also-improvised dramas of blue-collar malaise, and are wrapped in a clammy, miserable fog of all-too-real despair.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A bleak chronicle of poverty, addiction and blighted lives unfolds against the backdrop of a depressed former coal-mining town in this shot-on-digital-video feature by the Amber Collective, a group of U.K. filmmakers who've been producing documentary-style… (more)

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